Monday, October 24, 2011

First Aid For The Sole

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
After our first canoe and camping adventure in June, which involved, broken wooden paddles, fish hooks, fingers and forgotten keys, I was excited when my friend John R. wanted to do some hiking in the Shenandoah Mountains. I recommended my favorite hike, Old Rag Mountain. It was a done deal and we headed out early on a beautiful, cool, fall, Monday morning.
We got parked at the lower lot and headed up the road for the upper trail head a half mile away. A fall weekday was perfect for John's introduction to Old Rag's ridge trail and its mile of rock scramble, which can backup in a major queue on the weekends. Except for me having to backtrack 1/4 mile to the upper trail head to retrieve my walking stick, leaning against the Port-a-potty, the first hour was uneventful.

That is until we reached the stretch somewhere near the 2nd or 3rd switchback. I stopped to catch my breath and turned around to check on John, when I heard a crashing in the underbrush. Not 50' back down the trail, a 150-200 lb Black Bear crossed the trail behind us. I yelled "Bear" and was very mad that I didn't catch him with my Nikon D40 as he crossed. John only caught a glimpse. Smokey wasn't in a big hurry so we had 2-3 minutes to watch him just off the trail.

The Old Rag ridge rock scramble begins after the trails merges into this open venue overlooking the valley below. It's a great place for a breather, snack and a few photos.
From here the scramble begins. Up, down, over, under and through.
By now our, my legs were starting to get tired.
And then it happened. "Oh, man." John said. "What now John? Is there blood?", I asked, as I turned around to see John holding up his right boot. The sole of his right, 15 year old leather Vasque boot had completely separated.

To the rescue. Out comes the Nalgene bottle wrapped with Duck Tape. It doesn't take long to wrap two 3' foot pieces to hold the sole in place. I say to John as I wrap. "I'm just glad there was no blood involved on this one."
We took a break for lunch at 1:00pm, about 20 minutes short of the summit as we both were running out of juice.
Our lunch view

The required summit sign post photo.
The return trip down the saddle trail and Wheatly Hollow fire road can be tedious at time but it is still a beautiful walk in the woods.

Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), an all volunteer organization, does an amazing job on trail maintenance.
The fire road
Old Rag from below.
The start of the last 1/2 mile of paved road leading to the lower parking lot. 7 hours round trip. 9.4 miles. Three apples. 2 Clif Bars. 1 Nalgene of water. 1 Nalgene of Gatorade. 1 Cream Cheese and jelly sandwich on Wholewheat. 2400' feet of climbing and 2400' of gliding. All in a days play for a couple of almost old guys who cherished every moment and every cramp.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My First Bike Overnight Ride

Connecting with and reading has been the catalysis for me to hit the road to a nearby private campsite for my first overnighter. I was making due by using my old, 1995 Performance M505 MTB with 26x1.5 road tires because I knew my Trek 1000, with its 700x25 tires wasn’t suitable for carrying the extra weight. I was surprised how well my Topeak rear rack and MTX TrunkBag DX worked for this first go around. Totally unsuitable in wet weather, the TrunkBag with its dropdown side panniers was plenty large enough for an overnighter.

Tropical storm Lee hit Virginia hard and drenched my first set of plans back in September, so last Friday was the first opportunity to load up and head out. I am a moderately experienced backpacker so I already have the kit necessary for this inaugural foray into bike touring. MSR Stove, Big Agnes air mattress, North Face Rock 22 tent and a 20 degree North Face synthetic bag, rounds out my basic list of equipment. I debated on just using a sheet and fleece liner for sleeping but was glad to have the bag as it got down to the upper 40s that night.  The sleeping bag went into a waterproof paddling bag which made it much easier to “lash” on top of the rear bag with the tent.

Fredericksburg, VA is a pretty busy place with traffic, especially on a Friday afternoon.  Leaving from home, crossing through town and its main shopping area, I knew the first half of the trip was going to be the most challenging. I also knew I had to face this hill on River Road at Motts Run. I am not too proud to report that my 60 year old legs weren’t up to the task and I had to walk the second half.

As beautiful as River road is to drive, there is no shoulder and the roadway is quite narrow. Being just outside of town it is also a few busy commuting road on Friday afternoon. I was very relieved to make the turn onto Spotswood Furnace Road and take a break.

The second half of my 28 mile journey took me down quiet back roads and I only had one, close dog encounter. A quick spray in the face from my water bottle stopped him in his tracks with that dumb look on his face of, “What did I do to deserve that? This is my road.”

The campground was nearly deserted when I arrived so I had my pick of sites in a wonderful pine forest. It didn’t take long to get the tent set up and have my Red Beans and Rice dinner ready. Just before dark I took a short walk down to the Rappahannock River which was running close to flood stage.

Saturday dawned clear and cool, but very windy. My luck was holding as it was out of the Northwest, which put it at my back on the way home.

Most of my riding miles are done on my Trek 1000. The M505 MTB has a longer top tube and lower handle bars. It also has a seat that is healthier for more standing than sitting.  When everything was said and done, my first overnighter was well worth the tingle in my hands and a few tender spots here and there.  I know now that there will be longer tours in my future and a new bike to go along with me.